Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Colour Challenge

I've been dyeing a lot of purple skeins lately. Admittedly it's one of my favourite colours, but it's also one of the top fashion colours this season. What better excuse to indulge my passion! My camera on the other hand is not so good with these tones. I took a few shots this morning to try to capture the variety. This one is the best of them, but it's not great.I've already set myself several challenges for the school break--coming up in only a few weeks now. Getting some basics skills of machine embroidery established is high on the list, since my textile art course seems to rely on that technique a fair bit. I've also been challenged to do some more drawing--I'm still incredibly uncomfortable with my pencil and paper. Some more photography skills had better go on the list as well. Hmmm and organising the house a bit more, and getting some exercise, and, and, and . . .

Monday, May 30, 2011

Capsicum Done

I've had capsicums on my mind for while. As is often the case, I had way too many ideas of things I could do. I had ideas about necklaces, capsicum slices set with freshwater-pearl-seeds and other elaborate manifestations. The set task was simply to make something from my fruit drawings. In the end I made a capsicum. It's crocheted, handspun wool, lightly stuffed and needle-sculpted. The stalk is a double twisted cord of handspun wool and the cap is embroidered with cotton perle. It's enough. It's done. I'm going to hand it in.

I've got a feeling that saying "enough" is going to be one of my significant challenges in the next few weeks. I'm going to have to distinguish carefully between tasks that are exercises to demonstrate or practice a particular aspect of work and tasks that are to be developed into something of exhibition quality. Otherwise I'll go nuts!

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I received a welcome phone call from the Substation Artists' Market coordinator this week. I've been accepted for a stall there starting next weekend. One more opportunity to promote my work; one more challenge for my making frenzy. I made a pair of wristies on my way to and from school on Friday. Here's another pair in process:
In case you're wondering, I caught the train to school on Friday. It takes about the same amount of time as it does to drive. It probably costs about the same, by the time I factor in petrol and parking. The stress of peak hour traffic and the crowded train probably cancel each other out. The major benefit is time to knit. As an added bonus I bumped into my friend R on the platform at Flinders St station on my way home. We called her mum on the mobile and stopped off for a quick meal of pizzas at the Lebanese Bakery. I was home by about 6.00pm all fed and ready for an early night.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Perspective was our topic for drawing class yesterday afternoon. With the help of our rulers, pencils and detailed instructions we managed to extract something that looked a bit like a real building out of a mass of construction lines. It turns out that a lot has to do with your point of view. I'm hoping today's experience will be similar. Here's a view of my kitchen table this morning.My cup of coffee is in the foreground. Everything else falls into place around and behind it. Having drained it, I hope everything else will fall into place and something resembling a reasonable day will emerge.

My first task is to list and price a box of handspun skeins for my friend E who is coming to pick them up for her shop. Next week they will be nicely established at House of Cloth in Bendigo. Then I have my stuff from last week's activities to put away. There's also some more spinning and knitting hovering on the horizon. Hopefully I can catch up with that before it reaches the vanishing point. . . .

Friday, May 27, 2011

Better Now

Here's the capsicum pic I wanted to post this morning.Hopefully I'll get time to stitch in the little pearls tomorrow.

Friday Flurry

It's school day again and I've decided to catch the train. From what I can tell from the timetable it should take about the same time as driving, with the benefit that I can knit along the way.

Meanwhile I've got several projects just about ready to hand in and several more on the go. The kitchen table is a mess of fibre and books. I need to pick out the things to take to school before I pack my bag.

The capsicum project is still evolving. Yesterday I bought a string of tiny freshwater pearls to serve as capsicum seeds. I won't have time to stitch them in this morning, but I wanted to at least have a look at how they might sit. After eating my toast I sliced open one of my "specimens" while I was waiting for my coffee to brew. Grrrr . . . I was going to add a picture of my capsicum dissection, but I can't get the picture button to work. I seem to be having a fair bit of trouble with my various editing tools lately . . . I'm going to have to leave it there and try again when I get home.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Shibori Silk

"The job's not done until the paperwork's done", they say. In this case the "job" is my Shibori History assignment. The "paperwork" is the written report of my practical work. I presented my talk to the class last week and showed my shibori silk cloths. Now I need to choose a few photos and write up the marking criteria sheet so I can hand it in and tick it off my to do list.

Here's one of my photos: I didn't get very far with my world history project yesterday. I somehow got bogged down somewhere in the middle ages amongst the crusades and the plague. Maybe that's symbolic!

This morning I'm tired after teaching patchwork last night. The class is lots of fun, but I'm so revved up when I get home that it's hard to go straight to sleep and it's way past my normal bed time. I also have to have a fasting blood test done, so I can't indulge in my usual morning pick me up of porridge and freshly brewed coffee. My plan for the day is to bundle up warmly and get myself off to the pathology lab. Then I can shout myself a treat from the Lebanese bakery and get on with the day.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Light and Shade

I've been focussing on my homework assignments again this week. Yesterday's effort was a World History Timeline. I've dubbed it the how-long-is-a-piece-of-string project. That's right, we've been asked to construct a timeline of World History! I think I mentioned that the last time I studied history I was twelve years old. And that I feel profoundly ignorant in a formal Art course. When I went to the local libraries I was able to borrow several door-stopper sized tomes. Apparently there's a book called, "World History for Dummies", but it was out on loan. There's no way I can read all the information I have available, even in those few books. Plus there are dozens of timelines on the web. I put in a good effort yesterday, and feel as though I've at least got some sort of framework to develop. To help preserve my sanity I made sure I got a few minutes in the garden when the sun was out. I dead-headed some roses and turned over a patch of dirt with my garden fork. I also ventured across the road to pick this branch from the wild cherry tree on the footpath there.We've been focussing on light and shade in our last couple of drawing classes. I thought I would draw this small branch and try to pick out the shaded areas, but my lighting set up was against me. I have a set of three spotlights in my kitchen space. Can you see, there are three distinct shadows cast by each little twig? It was more than I was willing to tackle after grappling with World History all day. I took the photo and left the drawing until this morning.

I don't think I can bear another full day of World History. I have some sewing to do as well as the drawing. Maybe if I break it up a bit more it will be easier to manage. Meanwhile I'll follow my usual prescription for sanity: another cup of coffee and a few minutes spinning and I'll see how I feel after that.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Another Finish

This little scarf was another finish on the weekend.
Despite what felt like an eternity of stitches-200 of them--it was a little shorter than I wanted. It's a while since I've made one of these sideways scarves. I must've used bigger needles last time. And yes it would seem logical to write down what I've done each time I make a scarf, but there are so many of them and each one its different--that's half the fun. And what seems "long enough" one day might turn out to be "a bit too short for what I want" another day. In any case, adding a couple of little stripes on the end provided a bit more interest and finished the scarf off beautifully.

By the way, can you see the difference in loft between the blue yarn and the multi-coloured one? It was actually the same fleece and exactly the same spinning. I flattened the multi-coloured one into a slightly felted yarn when I over-handled it to get all those interesting colours. Learning from that experience, I was extra specially gentle when I dyed the blue.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Here's the completed Australian landscape tweed neck roll.I knitted up the sky yesterday. And I immediately wove in the loose ends. One day I might be so diligent about finishing things properly when I'm done with the interesting bits, that I'll stop publicly congratulating myself. For now I still feel so amazingly virtuous when I do the right thing that it's worth celebrating. Finishing aside, I'm really happy with it. The burst of blue over the bush colours catches me by surprise every time I look at it and makes me smile.

For those of you who are keeping track of my stack of assignments . . . this is one of seven for my history subject. I completed two last week. I have two others nearly finished and two yet to start. If I put in as good an effort this week as I did last week, I'll be well on the way to a comfortable end of semester. I only have two assignments for my drawing subject--and of course a folio of drawings. I'd better get back to work.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Spin a Sky

Last weekend I promised myself a sky to finish off my little tweed landscape neck roll. Here is sky in the making:I've carded together some suitable colours of merino yarn with just a hint of silk. The first bit is a dark blue to sit on the horizon. Then there are some cloudy blues and whites, with a touch of pale pink-beige and surprisingly just a little green. The daylight was almost gone when I took the pic. I had to open the door to let in the last of the light. I got the spinning done before bedtime and washed the yarn, so this morning it's ready to use. That will be me happy with one more project done. With the blue sky added, I may even find that I can wear the neck roll myself. Now that would be a bonus.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Time and Place

I gave my presentation on Shibori dyeing to my Textile Art class yesterday. It was exciting to share some of what I'd learnt and to pass on the bug to some of my colleagues. As this was a history class, placing a textile work in context was a central feature of the assignment. I dyed a couple of silk cloths as part of this project. I've planned them as head-scarves and my thinking reflects my experiences with the Arabic-speaking women's group I've been working with in the past year. To provide the historical context I'd like to make some paper-mache stands. I've collected the relevant newspapers:
--two Melbourne city daily papers and the local weekly paper. I still have lots of questions and possibilities to explore, but I guess that's what it's all about.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Shibori Experiments

I've been working away at my Shibori assignment. In the past I've played with patterning on cotton fabric. I've also done a fair bit of dyeing with wool yarns. In between of course there's been silk, which is just irresistable to colour. Now I've started to have a go at wool fabrics. There are significant differences between wool and cotton fabrics for home dyeing. The first is that the dye needs to be heated to simmering point for about 20 minutes. Another is that the wool takes a long time to soak.The fabric had been in the sink for half an hour at least when I took this shot. You can see it's still bobbing away and is nowhere near saturated.

I've got a suitcase full of books and samples for my class talk this morning. I've chosen to wear my biggest watch--I really will need to keep an eye on the time, there's so much wonderful material to share.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I'm knitting away at yesterday's wool.It's a long way between needles. I cast on 200 stitches so as to knit a scarf longways. It's a trick I often use when I'm not sure how far a skein of yarn will go. Once I know a scarf is long enough it doesn't really matter how wide it is. If the yarn is a bit scarce I have a skinny little thing, affectionately known as a "scraf"--that's a cross between a scarf and a scrap. If I have plenty of yarn I can have fun with a ruffle or some other embellishment. Or I can cast off and use the last bit of wool to trim some wristies. I like the freedom and versatility.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Problem Solving

I finished dyeing this skein of yarn yesterday. I was experimenting with bound resist--stopping the flow of colour to different areas of fibre by tieing the skein with string. That aspect was successful and I have a nice range of colours, but the yarn was a softly spun merino and it didn't take well to the amount of handling involved in the process. The fibres have felted together a bit. Apart from the effect on the yarn itself, winding off a skein of felted yarn is a challenge. I've set up my ball winder on the table and the skein is over the back of a chair. There's a bit of tension between the two. Add a tug here and there and I managed to wind it off. Now I'm knitting a scarf. It's an unusual sensation with the stitches gripping the bamboo needles more than usual. I'll see how I go. Certainly I'm learning heaps!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Conflict Management

I've had the dyepots out again lately. I'm experimenting with tied resist. The process involves binding areas of the yarn or fabric tightly with string to prevent the dye penetrating that area. Then when the tie is removed and rearranged another colour can be added.

Here's a problem I encounter every time I work with my dye pots: I have a smallish kitchen with a standard four-burner stove. The scenario this morning is that I have a skein of yarn and a big piece of silk in the pot at the top of the pic. The pot below it is my dinner--chicken and sweet corn soup. The big aluminium pot on the third burner is one of my dye pots--I always keep separate equipment for dyeing. There is one spare burner for my coffee-pot, but it's hard to reach with everything else going on. Now the soup is cooked, so I can brew myself a coffee before moving on to the next task.

The laundry of my dreams has room for a small two-burner electric stove next to the laundry tubs. I have plans approved by Council, but I have yet to find a builder willing to commit to such a small task. I'm shy of managing the project myself after my experience with the studio last year. That's a different sort of conflict to resolve in my mind before I can solve the tangle on my stove in the longer term.

Monday, May 16, 2011


My weaving buddy E came to see me yesterday. More specifically, she came to see me and my handspun yarn. E is the proud owner of House of Cloth in Bendigo. This little textile paradise is about to go into knitting yarns and my handspun will be among them. It was a friendly kind of visit, so E came with her son C and two fluffy canine companions. As you can see, they made themselves at home. It was such a pleasure to show my work to a skilled craftsperson. She instantly appreciated the quality of the fibre and the amount of skill and time that goes into making each strand of yummy yarn. From a business point of view, she was happy to buy the yarn outright, which simplifies the process for me so much compared to a consignment set up. Plus I get the instant gratification of up front payment. Overall a satisfying few hours. Now of course I need to fill the gap in my stock created by E's appreciation. Meanwhile I have some assignments to finish for TAFE and a class to teach in a few hours, so I'd better get on with the day.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Daily Challenge

I have a new daily challenge to add to my routine. For the last few weeks of our Drawing subject, we've been asked to do a drawing a day. Here are some leaves I picked up this morning to have a go at. On friday we did an exercise in depicting tonal differences with torn paper. We had 9 shades to choose from. Now to see whether I can see light and shadow more accurately for the practice I've had.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Now Knitting

I took my tweed sample to class yesterday where it received a fitting welcome. By the end of the day I had cast on 80 stitches for a little neck wrap.The first few rows--at the right of the pic because it's one of those "turn the pics on their sides if you want it or not days here--are the dark brown marle yarn which I used for the warp in the card-woven sample. It's hardly visible in the weaving, but here it will hopefully ground the other colours. Then I moved on to my tweed yarn. My next challenge is to spin myself some sky. I'm looking forward to another bit of colour blending and then woollen spinning to make a soft, fluffy, light-as-air yarn. Meanwhile I have a house to clean up and several pressing assignments to deal with.

Sick Day Blog

Yesterday my blog had a sick day. No, not me--blogger! All day yesterday blogger was out of action. I tried to post before going to school and again when I got home. All I got was error messages. Now apparently everything is back to normal. I need another coffee though and a bit of time to think and then I do my regular morning post.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Old Friends, New Friends

One of the troubles with enjoying so many aspects of textile arts and crafts is that it's hard to keep close contact with individual areas. For me weaving is a case in point. I did a two year certificate in weaving at the Handweavers and Spinners Guild a few years ago, but have hardly touched my loom since. This year, one of my fellow students in the Textile Art course got very interested in Tweed cloth. I said, "I can do that". Now I've followed through on my boast. Yesterday I spun some tweed yarn. This morning I made a simple card loom--there it is in the pic behind my little sample.
I've been concentrating hard for an hour or so, needle-weaving in small scale. It's mostly plain weave, but I had a go at a tiny bit of twill--that reminds me why multi-shaft looms were invented. Counting threads, even for a little while is just not fun. I'm pretty happy with what I've made though, and I can't wait to show it off tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Small, Soft, Warm

I knitted up this little neck wrap this week:It's a combination of merino and silk, hand-dyed in purples. The forecast here is for a maximum of 12 degrees today, with showers and possible hail. I may be looking for something just a bit more bulky to wrap around my neck, but the first sunny day I'll be wearing it. It's so soft and warm and the colours are even richer than they appear in the pic.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Here It Is

I'm very happy about how the Quilt Launch went yesterday.

Here is the quilt: It was a typical Neighbourhood House day. The playgroup which uses the room every Monday morning ran overtime and had to do an extra quick pack of their floor cushions, crafts and food. Just as the last pram was wheeling out--ten minutes before the advertised start time--one of the guests of honour arrived. He's a new Member of Parliament and was representing the Minister for Multicultural Affairs. As soon as the introductions were over I asked him and his Electoral Officer to be "family". We put them to work moving tables and chairs to get the room ready. Meanwhile the kitchen was a-buzz with women putting the finishing touches to the spectacular food they had prepared.

The formal part of the day went smoothly. I was especially glad when M, one of the women in the group, spoke about her experience of immigration and the significance of the quilt. Then it was time to eat--and eat--and eat. Our guests went home with piles of food for their collegues who had to stay back minding the office. There were photos galore. I have one of the entire group with the quilt, but I'm not too sure about protocol for putting it up on my blog, so I guess I'll keep it for personal enjoyment. As a final bit of excitement, a representative from National Multicultural Radio came and interviewed the women. That will be aired in a couple of weeks. Let me know if you understand Arabic and I'll send you the details. We've been promised a link to the website and photo, so there's something there for the rest of us too.

When the guests had gone, the food was cleared and the kitchen tidied I expected it to be time to go home. Wrong! Up went the music which had been playing in the background; back went the chairs and it was time for dancing and clapping and generally celebrating some more. I was sorry I had to leave for an afternoon appointment.

Happily I've been asked to teach a sewing class at the Neighbourhood House on a Monday lunchtime, so I'll be crossing paths with the women regularly.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Launch Today

Today's the day of the Arabic Women's Community Quilt launch. I woke with that thought in mind, and honestly, it's hard to stop smiling! Yesterday I did all the fiddly finishing off things--all except for a final dusting off. There's no point trying to get rid of the last bit of dust on anything at my house. It's dust central here. I also prepared a spool of thread in each of the main colours in the quilt and a couple of needles in case we need any emergency repairs. That's an extra precaution to make me feel super-safe, because really it's all ready to go.
Today the quilt will be displayed in one of the community rooms where the launch will be held. Later it will be hung in the main foyer area where people move through to all of the Neighbourhood House rooms. Did I happen to mention how excited I am! It's still a couple of hours until I head off to the Neighbourhood House to help get things ready and the launch proper isn't until 12.00. I will take some slow steady breaths and relax my smile as I think about what's coming. One of the women who participated in the project is going to speak. The Mayor is coming, as is a photographer from the local paper. I'm thrilled that all those local community honours are to be paid to these women who expect so little in terms of public recognition and contribute so much in so many ways.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

For Sale

Yesterday I visited the Substation Artists' Market at Spotswood again. This was a deliberate visit to check out the possibility of holding a stall there. I liked it last time I visited and again yesterday. I've decided to apply for a stall. Next step is to fill out the application form and send it in. That requires images of my work. I've had a look through pics I already have and added a few more. Here's a new one from this morning:It's not the crispest shot--the sun hasn't come out yet today--but it does capture some of the colours and textures I love to play with. Now I need to write a few lines about my work and my process and then pop it in the mail tomorrow.

I'm sorry for the lack of appropriate links this week--blogger seems to be having some troubles in that department. You can find info about the Substation at

Saturday, May 7, 2011


I've been playing with the idea of capsicums for our "luscious fruit" project. Yesterday I made thisIt's part of a humourous design for a neckpiece. I'm still playing with it and have at least two more "monster" chillies to make. I'm hoping to have the courage to carry it off.

Friday, May 6, 2011


I didn't think I could get this scarf finished yesterday, but I surprised myself. It's done and in the mail. I made a few decisions about simplifying things I'd hoped to add to it; wove in the loose ends; filled in the paperwork and drove to the Post Office.I have leftover ideas in my head and lots more of this delicious merino fleece, so I expect there is more spinning and making of related scarves in my future. I'm glad I actually got it finished. I decided that participating was more important to me than making just the scarf I had in mind. Maybe next year I'll manage to do both.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Not Quite

I've been working on a scarf which I had intended for the Scarf Festival. Unfortunately I've tried to fit too many things in this week and I don't see how it's going to be ready on time. I would need to have it in the mail today to get to Geelong tomorrow. I have classes tomorrow, so I can't do a last minute dash. I'm enjoying the making and I will finish it regardless, but it will have to be my own private little festival. Here's the starting point:
I went off from this central bit in both directions and have had some fun. It's rather 3-dimensional and will be hard to photograph, but hopefully I can show you a completed pic sometime soon.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Day Out

I drove down to Sorrento yesterday to see an exhibition. Sorrento is at the end of the Mornington Penninsula, which is quite a drive for me. But the trip was sweetened by the company of my friend A who works in Frankston.

The exhibition itself was worth the trip: a few pieces I really liked and some good ideas to think about for my own development as an artist. Presenting textiles in a gallery context can be a real challenge. Here some were framed, some hung from a fabric sleeve from the ceiling and others presented in a glass box. Food for thought.

After some lunch, I drove out to the back beach--that's the ocean side of the penninsula. I'd forgotten how very good beach can be. The sound and smell of the waves and the taste of salt were life-giving. I had an hour or so on the sand--not between my toes, but at least under my feet. I kept my shoes on as it wasn't really warm despite the sun. I was fascinated by the waves: the splash of the foam and their steady advance up the beach as the tide came in. It's been way too long since I'd used my D-SLR camera. I found myself very rusty in my skills. I need to work out a routine of using it more regularly. It's too good a tool to neglect.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I'm Off

I'm off to Sorrento this morning, via an optometrist appointment. One of my teachers has an exhibition which finishes this weekend. I definitely want to see it. Thankfully, even though it's quite a long way from home it's both near the beach and near a good friend's workplace, so I'll combine the trip with several purposes.
I've already put the dogs out and they're woofing away because I'm in the house and they're not, so this is just a quick post as I head out the door.

Monday, May 2, 2011


I'll have to admit I wasn't too sure about yesterday's market. I was sure of my participation. It's my local Neighbourhood House and I love what happens there. So a chance to support that work, while offering my creations for sale was a definite "yes". But after a week of fairly intense making, I had my doubts about whether I had my focus right. Add to that the perennial dilemmas of pricing and the chores of labeling and packing and you'll see there were some doubts in my mind.

That was yesterday. Today I'm tired, but sure it was a good thing. I sold stuff! To be exact I sold 9 greeting cards, 9 brooches, 2 necklaces and 2 bookmarks. Selling things I've made makes me happy. This is A, one of the Art teachers at the Neighbourhood House. She bought one of my necklaces. She had to go home at lunch time to arrange some household stuff. When she came back, she'd tied up her hair and was wearing it. All afternoon I could see how good it looked on her. And she took a photo of a brooch I'd made to show a friend who likes that sort of thing too.

As well as selling stuff, there was lots of interaction and a chance to talk about what the Neighbourhood House does. And I had my spinning wheel, so at least 50 grams of what would otherwise be boring plain white spinning got done while I was watching people and talking with people and generally having a good time. That's me happy. The next House market is in September, but before I went to bed I looked up some other market opportunities which had been on my "maybe" list for a while. They won't be quite as neighbourly as this one and they'll definitely be more expensive to participate in, but I'd like a chance to build on yesterday's success pretty soon.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Professional Development

My neighbour across the road and two doors up is a highschool textiles teacher. We got talking a couple of weeks ago. She has a particularly challenging VCE class this year and a sadly under-resourced school. There wasn't much I could do except listen. When she mentioned that one of the school's overlockers was driving her nuts I thought I might be able to help. L was sure it was just an issue with the tension, but wasn't sure how to go about fixing it. I suggested my favourite trick of threading the overlocker up with four different colours. L said she'd bring the machine home and I could have a look at it. Agreed. Yesterday afternoon we were finally both free at the same time. Here's how the stitch looked when we sat down to it. First we had to replace one of the needles. To do that we borrowed the sharp eyes of L's eight-year-old daughter. Two middle aged women cramping their necks to peer through multifocals makes good comedy, but it's not very efficient. We also found that the special little tool for the job was still tucked in it's place behind the machine's face plate. Score! Next I adjusted the tension dials one at a time. L sat next to me cutting more and more strips of the cheap yellow fabric we were using for samples. We had quite a little routine going. Meanwhile the eight year old had returned to her colouring in competition. Sensible child.

After a fair bit of fiddling and a break for a cold drink, we arrived at this: That's definitely better. I left L to reconnect the spools of black thread and came home with my prize sample.

Now today is the day of the Neighbourhood House Market. So I need to pack my car with all the goodies I've been making and head off. We've been promised coffee and croissants with set-up, so there's an added incentive to be early.